Andoni Schultz, 18, is now in college, but just graduating from high school was a remarkable achievement.
"I believe that one day there will be a cure," Schultz said.
It is that kind of optimism and faith that drives Schultz. The Homestead High School graduate has had to work harder than most students.
"The amount of time it would take a one hour test takes me two hours and even more; I really have to work hard to get what I want in life and to really do well," Schultz said.
Schultz was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor when he was a 3-year-old. He is still fighting that battle.
"Twelve surgeries and radiation and MRIs and blood tests and CT scans," Schultz's mother Angie Inchauspe said.
Brain surgery at an early age affected his short term memory, but Inchauspe says he never fell behind in his school work.
"He's back home recuperating and he's doing his homework and getting it done, despite having just had brain surgery," Inchauspe said.
In fact, Schultz won scores of awards for his achievements. They include the Mr. Determination award in grade school and the outstanding student award in March from the school district.
His special education counselor Marjie Fischer says there were days when Schultz would have doubts, like the time he said, "No one knows what it's like to be me."
"I started crying along with him, I said, 'Ando, you're so right, no one does know what it's like to be you,'" Fischer said.
Last week a staff member called his home and said President Obama would mention him in his speech Wednesday to schools around the country.
Schultz says it was a total surprise.
"I would have never expected them to have ever called me," Schultz said.
Schultz says without support from his family and friends, he never would have been able to achieve what he has.
And he, like the president, has a message.
"Just work hard and keep at it because the more you do, the more likely it is that you will succeed and do well," Schultz said.